Memories are nothing if not a constant reminder of past ignorance. I laugh at memories of debates I used to have when I was younger about when the best time to have kids is: when you’re young and can bounce back bodily and run after your kids; or when you’re older and well, you’re just older. Nearly 6 years in, I don’t actually think there is such a thing. The probability is that you were hoodwinked by the awesome two-some that are Mother Nature and hormones, sneaky little fucks! One minute, you’re minding your own business planning your life on an excel spreadsheet then next you have the urge to procreate. To top it off, offspring are cute enough to make you forget the one-two punch that the awesome twosome dealt you, so you do it all over again.
We’ve come a long way, Bunny and I. This past weekend, I came across some photos of us when she was 11 months old, just a few days before I walked out of my marriage. It made me think about our journey as mother and daughter and the ever-changing balancing act. When I was pregnant, I had it in my mind that parenting as a couple would be as smooth as the Jamaican 4×100 meter relay team baton interchanges, but my experience in that relationship was to the contrary. If I think about it, I guess it was easier being single because then my focus was solely on mine and Bunny’s needs. Anything else was an unwelcome distraction. I had a lot going on at the time – divorce, full-time work, a Masters degree, relocating further from work. At 25, I was trying to climb the career ladder, and was working in an unforgiving environment, so everything was precision planning. Wake up, get ready, leave Bunny with her grandfather, sit in morning traffic, work a full consultant day, sit in evening traffic, cook dinner, bath and feed Bunny, feed myself, settle Bunny for bed, work on Masters assignments and thesis. Weekends were all work and Bunny. Reflecting on it, I don’t think I had a social life then – there was simply no time between all of that and the legal battle that was waging.
Now, 5 years after that photo was taken, I’m noticing that things are not any easier. I actually have more balls in the air than I did back in 2011. We’ve all seen those posts about how we all have glass balls in the air, where no one on their deathbed has ever wished they had worked more, and family is the only glass ball that can’t be fixed when it gets dropped (you know the one!). All of that is valid, but curses reality! Tough decisions have to be made on a daily basis on how to prioritise my time. Back in 2011, when I was trying so desperately to find some sort of formula for keeping all these balls in the air, I went the academic route and asked some of the successful women in the office what they did. “Outsource it”, they said. “It’ll be easier that way”, they told me. But my mama didn’t raise no slacker! I knew immediately that it was not how I wanted to raise Bunny, seeing me for dinner twice a week. I wanted to be present and accountable. Maybe not the best choice for career progression, but Bunny is really cute so that was a no-brainer.
Our needs change constantly, so I have an annual general meeting with myself to check and amend decisions (it really is that formal). As she has grown, so have her needs. But what mattered in 2011 doesn’t necessarily matter as much now, e.g. I don’t have to bath her because she can do that herself. I did eventually take up some of the advice I was offered, and let others handle what I was comfortable relinquishing from my iron mommy fist. I hired a live-in nanny who ensures that both of us are clean, dressed and fed because let’s be honest, she’s my nanny too. I have a great support system nearby, which eases some of the logistical challenges I have working so far from home, like extra-curricular activities and afternoon school runs. I’ve designed a well-oiled machine that can work independently of me, and it has to for Bunny’s life to be uninterrupted. It sounds pretty awesome because it is. I have time for the gym, friends, a relationship, evening classes, work dinners etc.
But, I have had to also put on my big girl panties because the Bunny assembly line has its pros and cons. On the one hand, I can accelerate my career again. If I have to travel, work late or work in remote destinations, life goes on. On the downside, the show does go on. That hits me where it hurts most because I’m mom. It’s one of the most important roles I will ever fulfill, and it’s a one-time right kind of gig. I experience the worst kind of working mom guilt because she is old enough to ask tough questions. “Where were you”? “Why can’t you stay for show and tell like xxx’s mom”? It’s hard to hear “I missed you” and to explain to a 3/4/5-year-old why you have to work so hard. I’m that mom who gets texts from other moms reminding her not to forget something for school. It’s not an aspirational position. Whilst I do not ever want to be bake sale mom, I hate missing milestones and school events. It’s been a tough lesson in ego though, because what I know for sure is it’s not all about me.
I have to constantly remind myself not to take things personally. My individual set of circumstances mean that I have to reconcile myself with the fact that I will not always be physically present. My heart does not break when she calls the nanny’s name when referring to me. Rather, I am thankful that we have such a competent and loving person looking after her. I can’t be mad when the offspring wants a bedtime story read by someone else. I hug and kiss her goodnight and appreciate the few moments of silence I can get before opening up my laptop. I try as hard as I can. I do the best that I can with what I have available. I don’t always get it right, but I am always trying. I am ambitious for both myself and Bunny which means I have to work extra hard. Because I work extra hard, it means that the little time that I get to spend with her is that much more special and it is not wasted on social media or mindless television.
It’s a constant shuffle. When she was younger, I prioritised bedtimes. I was there to tuck in and read stories every night. Now, it’s mornings. I am uncompromising and unapologetic about my school run. Everything waits until our morning routine is complete, then my day can run its course with my mind and heart settled. Trying to find a workable balance as a mom is like finding El Dorado – it’s a city of gold we’ve all heard of but no one has actually seen. I consider myself blessed to have all kinds of great mom’s in my circle, so when I say that balance is as elusive as the end of a rainbow I mean that for moms who are single, married, stay at home, part-time or full-time employed. What we can all agree on, despite our differing circumstances is that this is no cake walk.
I’ve made peace with the fact that the juggling act never gets easier, the hustle just changes. When she was a baby, I thought it was tough going. Looking back at it, I just laugh because right now, at this moment is the simplest it will ever be. There is so much more on my plate now and I sleep well at night knowing that I am doing the best that I can with what I have. We’re figuring it out as we go along. I’ve become a MOM (Master of Multitasking). I work hard and I play hard. I am a happy mom, disciplinarian mom, doctor mom, encyclopedia mom, taxi mom, chef mom, playmate mom, bed mate mom… I am also a sister, daughter, friend and lover. I am a manager and a warrior queen. I am a Superwoman!
It was never a dress…